Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Featured Artist Interview: Nikki Moddelmog

Photo by Paula D Moore Photography

Nikki Moddelmog is a great musician, a talented massage therapist, and is profoundly relaxing to be around, which is why I was amazed to learn that there was a time that she dealt with intense stage fright:"My choir teacher had heard that I was doing a small show at Borders, when Borders Bookstore was still a thing, and drove all the way from Moundridge to see me play. She said to me, "I didn't believe it when they said you playing all by yourself. I had to come see it with my own two eyes."

A: How'd did you go from being nervous on stage singing in front of people in high school to playing guitar and doing shows?
N: I was married for about a year and half during that time met some really amazing people who were musicians. When they came home from work at night they didn't watch tv, they just played music - just every evening, come home, play bluegrass music.

So I was fascinated -  I thought, man, I want to do that, that sounds awesome! So 'she' showed me my first 5 chords and I bought a guitar at a pawn shop for $150 - the action was so high, it hurt to push the strings down, just terrible - literally no name on it at all. I still have it, but literally there's no brand, it may actually be a kit guitar. Anyway, Elderly Woman Standing at the Counter- I was in love with that song at the time, so I learned how to play it and I just fell in love with it. All I did was sit in my living room and sing. And then I got divorced.

A: What happened then?
N: Well, when you get divorced your social groups change. I didn't have a whole lot of friends, so for 6 months I'd come home from work every night and just play and started getting really into it. I was just learning covers by getting online, looking up the chord, and then listen to the recording. Then I came across this singer songwriter duo Terry Quiett and Guinn Walker and just adored their music, went to all their gigs. They're both very sweet. At one point I thought 'wow you're normal, and you guys are writing music and you're just normal people'. At the time I thought of songwriters as being people like Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan - famous people, but Terry and Guinn were normal people writing music and doing gigs - so I thought if they can do it then I can. So I wrote a song and said 'Terry I wrote this song' and he loved it and was so supportive. So then I wrote another one, and another one. It became something for me to do, and I ended up meeting all these people and making all these friends and support network. They just embraced me completely.

A: How do you think music has helped you?
N:  Music has always served as a coping mechanism. I think everyone has an outlet - painting or writing or whatever - but it's a way of expressing yourself and maybe saying the things that you can't maybe in real life. For instance maybe you can't just sit across the table from someone and say 'I'm totally in love with you', but you could write a song about them, and maybe not look at them while you're singing it! Falling in love is a very broad example, but whatever experience you have with another human being - or as a human being - happens across the board. We're all designed to go through the same experiences- humans fall in love, they deal with death, they lose their job, they get a job, they travel - all these different experiences that humans share are the key to songwriting. It's really finding a way to connect those experiences that isn't too specific to your own thing, yet is applicable across the board.

A: When you're writing a song how do you convey that connection from yourself to your audience?
N: Lyrically it's about writing things that everyone is able to relate to, about the experiences that everyone goes through from birth until death. That whole spectrum of emotions.
Sometimes its really hard to realize that everyone is connected though these experiences, especially when you've lost a loved one or are going through something traumatic - why me, why do I have to go through this - everyone goes through it, but you just get to go through it now at this very moment. How you cope with it, how you deal with it is going to shape the way you experience it the next time - we're all going to die, and we're all going to-if we let ourselves- fall in love and hopefully multiple times. Writing music helps me process whatever 'it' is. To me, you either deal with it or you stuff it and some people just stuff it, others journal and write all out, some people drink, or write songs. I don't think I'm different from most people.

A: How does writing songs to connect with others help you personally?
N: The last song I wrote was called 'Let Go' and it's all about - I'm too busy with details/too busy with friends,/fantasizing about a future I don't have yet - that's a lyric in it, because it's very real. The social aspect of being out, there's always something else to do because I don't want to look at it yet. The last song I wrote was 6-8 months ago, so this song is just a reminder to me to let go, let things be, quit trying to schedule everything - I've gotta go here, I've gotta go there - I'm very wound up inside and this song was me coping with that. So, the last verse is take a deep breath/I keep singing my song/realized the answers were there all along. Just reminding myself to just look and quit waiting for answers that aren't there, quit trying to be busy all the time, and writing helps me to focus those feelings, while actually playing helps me get over some of the social anxiety that I have. It gets me out in the world. Performing for people and them relating to it is a really cool thing for me. I've had shifts because of songs, where I've been listening to a song and realizing that 'oh I need to look at that' so helping someone in that way, makes me feel like I've done something good for another human.

Nikki has a website you can check out and catch her at Tanya's Soup Kitchen on June 18th with cellist Susan Mayo at 6p. Find out more about Nikki and follow her other project The Mischief Makers on Facebook.


  1. Love this Woman, as an artist, my masseuse, and my friend! Don't see her as much as I'd like, but keep up with her on FB. Thanks for a fabulous article.


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